WINDSOR — NDP MPPs from Windsor and Essex are calling on the Doug Ford government to fund smaller, safer classes in September, saying there are countless parents in the region that simply can’t stay home with their kids – while few at all are comfortable with Ford’s bargain-basement scheme to send kids back to crowded classes.
“For many parents, taking months more off work to stay home with the kids is simply not an option,” said Lisa Gretzky, MPP for Windsor West. “But putting children into a crowded classroom is terrifying. Our classrooms were bursting at the seams before the pandemic, and putting them right back into those crowded rooms is not the safest we can make them.”
Doug Ford’s scheme sends elementary students back to crowded classrooms, while high school students in designated boards will only go to school half of the time. Under those conditions, in Windsor, like in communities all over Ontario, parents are being forced to make the impossible choice of sending their kids back to school or keeping them home.
“Parents are worried about outbreaks in schools because Doug Ford refuses to provide the best safety measure for kids which is smaller class sizes,” said Percy Hatfield, MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh. “Experts have made it clear that giving kids the room to physically distance in the classroom is our best defense against outbreaks hurting our little ones, and spreading into the community.”
Local parents like Jennifer Oltean are speaking out against Ford’s poor planning and lack of assurances.
“As a parent and a nurse, I am very disappointed in the lack of planning, lack of answers, and lack of health consideration from the school board and also Premier Ford and Mr. Lecce,” said Oltean.
Windsor-Essex was held back from Stage 3 of the re-opening because of the lack of testing, and lack of isolation for farm workers. As a result, Windsor-Essex’s economy is the hardest hit in the province.
“Putting our children into a high-risk situation is dangerous for them, but it also puts our economic re-opening at risk,” said Taras Natyshak, MPP for Essex. “The last thing small businesses here need to is to plunged back into lockdown because of outbreaks at schools.”
Windsor and Essex NDP MPPs are calling for the staffing up our schools, preparing temporary classroom spaces, and ensuring every classroom has good ventilation.
The Ford government is in the process of cutting thousands of teacher and education worker positions, and hiking class sizes over the course of several years.
The Ford government’s back-to-school plan sends all elementary and many high school students back into full-sized classes. High school students in designated boards will be at home on their own 50 per cent of the time, doing “independent work.”
The Ford government's total funding for additional staff during the pandemic recovery period is just $16,000 per school, an amount that doesn't even cover a single part-time staff member.
The backlog of necessary, but ignored school repairs reached $15.9 billion under the previous Liberal government, and have jumped to $16.5 billion under the Doug Ford government.